Police brass say recidivism remains ongoing problem with subway crime

Police brass say they are continuing to zero-in on criminals bringing weapons into the subway system as NYPD’s Chief of Transit rails against recidivism after three people were slashed at a Queens station last month.
Photo by Dean Moses

Police brass say they are continuing to zero in on criminals bringing weapons into the subway system, with NYPD’s Chief of Transit noting that their job is being made harder due to recidivism– pointing to the repeat offender who slashed three people at a Queens station last month as an example.

Nevertheless, subway crime is down, having fallen 6% so far this year. NYPD Chief of Transit Michael Kemper, the head NYPD honcho overseeing the subway, told amNewYork Metro in June that the decline can be attributed partly to the surge of some 1,000 extra cops into the system. With the bolstered ranks, police officials say they have prevented crime by taking weapons out of the hands of criminals; furthermore, they have caught criminals at turnstiles through fare evasion enforcement.

There has been a significant increase in weapons arrests in the transit system this year, which has also been a factor in the reduction in crime.

Between Jan. 1 and June 16, according to NYPD statistics, cops have made 33 gun arrests in transit — up from 18 during the same period in 2023, representing an 83% increase. A staggering 942 people have also been cuffed through June 16 for bringing knives into the subway, nearly double the 599 knife-wielding perps busted last year.  However, despite the arrests and the decline in crime statistics, subway crime continues to make headlines. 

In a candid interview with amNewYork Metro, NYPD Chief of Transit Michael Kemper said that major subway crime has dropped 6% so far in 2024, which, according to Kemper, equates to about 60 fewer major crimes in the subway when compared to the same time last year. Photo by Dean Moses

Kemper says that many of the perpetrators nabbed on the subways are criminals with lengthy rap sheets.

“This is a real challenge that has direct public safety implications,” Kemper told amNewYork Metro in a one-on-one interview regarding repeat offenders who seem to be going through the justice system’s revolving door. “Without consequences, where’s the deterrence?”

Kemper pointed to the June 23 mass attack where 21-year-old Christian Marrero allegedly slashed three people at the Queens Plaza station. According to the NYPD, Marrero slashed a 45-year-old man across his face and then also cut the faces of a 31-year-old man and a 22-year-old man. Marrero was finally cuffed when he tried to re-enter the same subway station.

An NYPD captain rides the subway.  Photo by Dean Moses

Once taken into custody, it became clear that this was not Marrero’s first time in handcuffs. According to police sources, the 21-year-old had some 16 prior arrests, 10 of which were made in the last 12 months alone in the Bronx and Manhattan, and six of those being for assault. The Chief of Transit asked why the knife-wielding assailant was able to walk the streets with such an extensive criminal record.

“This guy is a threat, a serious threat to society. Who knows how many additional assaults and slashings the officers prevented by being there and stopping him. But what is he doing out? What are we waiting for?” Kemper asked. “But I’m not shocked because we see this a lot.”

The knife allegedly recovered at the 77th Street/Lenox Avenue crime scene where a slashing took place. Jihad Dantzler was later arrested. NYPD

In another incident, a 33-year-old repeat offender allegedly sliced up a 23-year-old man on June 15 at the 77th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station. The victim suffered a deep laceration to his left shoulder and was treated at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Cops busted the suspect, Jihad Dantzler, at the Columbus Circle station on June 27 after they were able to recognize him from a poster. Dantzler reportedly tried to flee, but the officers were able to catch up to him, place him in cuffs, and recover a knife.

Like Marrero, Dantzler is also what police refer to as a recidivist—having a staggering 26 prior arrests on his record. Again, Kemper asked why such a dangerous, violent repeat offender was walking the streets.

“We’re not just talking about low-level property stuff here. We’re talking about physical violence, robbery with force, multiple assaults, possession of weapons. This is the type of guy that we’re talking about,” Kemper said.

But cops say they continue to make good progress with gun arrests.

Most recently, a man was arrested on 125 Street and Lenox Avenue on July 4 for bringing a loaded ghost gun into the subway station. According to law enforcement sources, 36-year-old Leshawn Pollard was spotted by plainclothes cops with a switchblade in his pocket; once stopped, they discovered he was also carrying a gun with no serial number.

Police arrested 36-year-old Leshawn Pollard after he was spotted by plainclothes cops with a switchblade in his pocket on 125th Street. Police also discovered he was also carrying a gun with no serial number.NYPD

“You never know what could have happened; it was July 4 — so this quality of life stops really work,” arresting Officer George Bermudez said.

Kemper says that it is gun busts like these that make him continue to champion having additional cops in the subways. He said he will also remain outspoken about recidivism.

“At the end of the day. Public safety is our top priority,” Kemper said. “Why are we forced to arrest certain people dozens of times?”